Florence weakens, but 'disaster is at doorstep'

South Carolina Highway Patrol cars escorting a line of vehicles as residents prepare ahead of Hurricane Florence's descent on Sept 11 2018. To speed evacuations officials in South Carolina reversed the flow of traffic on some highways so that all

Add Hurricane Florence as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Hurricane Florence news, video, and analysis from ABC News.

Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm and the most powerful to menace the Carolinas in almost three decades, has caused evacuation orders for more than 1.5 million people along the U.S. Atlantic coast.

As of 5:00 am (1100 GMT), Florence was a risky Category 4 hurricane packing sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (220 kilometers per hour), the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

As of 8 p.m., the storm was centered 335 miles (540 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwest at 16 mph (26 kph). "Take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other unsafe conditions".

The hurricane center's projected track previously had Florence charging into the North Carolina coast on Friday.

Florence became a unsafe Category 3 hurricane Wednesday afternoon before it downgraded to a Category 2 Wednesday night with winds at 110mph. The hurricane was moving northwest in the Atlantic at 15 miles per hour and was packing sustained winds of 110 miles per hour.

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However, the center of Florence could hit as early as Thursday night rather than Friday morning, according to the latest NOAA estimates at the time of this writing.

Hurricane warnings continue in parts of eastern North Carolina and northern coastal SC. Florence's heavy rains could cause an environmental disaster if waste from hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites wash into homes or threaten drinking water supplies.

It's also notable that there are three hurricanes, including Florence, lined up in the Atlantic at the same time.

The governor of Georgia has declared a state of emergency after forecasts showed Hurricane Florence possibly taking a south-west turn. "Failure to take action will likely result in serious injury or loss of life".

Large swells affecting Bermuda, portions of the U.S. East Coast, and the northwestern and central Bahamas will continue this week, resulting in life-threatening surf and rip currents.

Eight dogs and 18 cats from a shelter in Norfolk, Virginia, were sent to two shelters in Washington to make room for pets expected to be displaced by the hurricane.

Hurricane Florence's Path Remains Uncertain As Storm Closes In On Carolinas
The entire coastlines of North and SC , in addition to some parts of southeastern Virginia, are under a mandatory evacuation plan. He cited forecasts showing Florence was likely to stall over North Carolina , "bringing days and days of rain".

Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, underscored the danger of the storm surge in an interview with "Good Morning America".

"The biggest thing is you're always anxious about yourself and friends and family - and whether they'll have a place to come back to", he said. The closer the center passes to us, the more rain & wind we'll see, the farther away the center tracks, the less rain & wind we'll see.

SC ordered the mandatory evacuation of one million coastal residents while North Carolina ordered an evacuation of the Outer Banks, barrier islands that are a popular tourist destination.

"The primary fuel for hurricanes is a warm sea surface, which is getting warmer with climate change", said Dr Kelly McCusker, a climate scientist at the independent economic research firm Rhodium Group. It will be arriving soon.

As Florence closed in for the worst strike on the area in decades, President Donald Trump and state and local officials urged residents in the path of the storm to evacuate before it is too late.

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